Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year One And All!

The regulars here don't need the following message: Your magnanimity, and love for humanity shine through much of what you post. I subscribe to Today's Highlights from Each day, thanks to this site, I'm treated to information, facts, and knowledge--a good way to begin any day.

It's the "pledge" that I want to bring your attention to. It's making the news round, and garnering deserved attention. It should give us all hope: Even the super rich see a need to give back. Yet, we mustn't forget: Our small amounts multiplied a thousand fold, and given with the right spirit--the spirit of generosity, love, and caring--will reach as many people, if not more, as do billions of dollars.

Blinders Off posted this in the comment section of the previous blog entry:

"I talked with a mentor of mine last week. I was questioning why I do what I do and how there are times I do not understand it, but the feeling I get when I witness the results of helping others is extraordinary. The following day he said, 'It is time I give you this, you will know why after you finish reading it.' He handed me book titled 'The Greatest Miracle in the World' by OG Mandino. I did find the answer to my questions after reading that book."

I responded in part to her "questioning," and to the answer she received from her mentor. I'm not sure exactly the answer she received, but I'm certain that it resonated with her deepest feelings. Not to upstage her, but to share why I do what I do, I offer the following:

I choose to be the grandest version of the greatest vision ever I've held of who I am, and who I wish to be.

Here's the beauty of this: I get to revise the version at will, making it grander and grander each time, fully aware that I'm only limited by my "vision;" fully aware that I have an eternity with which to create myself anew, again and again.

Now before I forget why I began this blog entry, let me say this:

The Pledge:

What did you do this year to make the world a better place? You still have a few hours left to end the year on a positive note. There's time to do a good deed or make that one last tax-deductible contribution in 2010. It's okay if it's not as much as one of the members of the Giving Pledge campaign. That's the group of billionaires recruited by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to pledge at least half of their wealth to charity. One of the newest and youngest members of the group is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In September, he pledged $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey, school system, and more recently he pledged to give away most of his nearly $7 billion fortune. The 26-year-old computer whiz became even more famous this year as the subject of one of the year's hottest films, The Social Network. And, now Time magazine has named Zuckerberg its Person of the Year for 2010. No wonder he looks so happy.

Quote: "When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place. So, what we view our role as, is giving people that power." — Mark Zuckerberg

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Good Hair"

Good Hair, the Chris Rock movie (documentary), makes many statements about black folk preoccupation with their hair. No, I don't think blacks are the only racial group with this fixation--the beauty industry, which hair is a large part of, crosses racial lines, pulling in billions of dollars from many ethnic groups, regardless of color.

No, I'm not going the discuss the right or wrong of this fixation: I don't care about that as an issue--I'm well aware that we're not our bodies (We're more than that!), and that we don't get to take them with us when we vacate this world, leaving behind pierced ears, noses, tattoos, as well as hair, whether it's our personal hair, or whether it once belonged to another.

"When Chris Rock's daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, 'Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?' the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl's head. Rock visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people. Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symone, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter's question. What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn't always benefit the black community and little Lola's question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside."

I would urge you to watch this film, even if you have seen it once before (It's now on cable.), not because you'll learn more about weaves, extensions, the hair-dressing industry, the latest beauty-shop gossip, or any such thing, but for the statements it makes about us as a people--candid observations, visual, as well as spoken, about how well we serve our own economic self-interest.

E. Franklin Frazier, sociologist, author, and university professor, once posited this thesis, and I paraphrase: As integration (racial intermixing) becomes a greater reality in this country, black institutions will become less important--will, as a result, disappear. A safe thesis to be sure. Upon reading that, I countered: black institutions, for that reason (the on-going existence of segregation), won't disappear altogether, any time soon, because full "integration," for all its promises, will be slow in coming, and dearly bought.

And, for the most part, that has been the case--defacto segregation often rules the day within our nation, despite federal legislation and court rulings to the contrary.

Until such time that true and full integration is our lot, it behooves blacks to operate in their best economic interest--an interest that has been largely ignored over the years, notwithstanding the status of racial integration. Rather than focus on what is best for us as a people, we pretend, to our financial and economic detriment, that we're an integral part of the mainstream, when in fact we're a mostly isolated people, crowded into various enclaves throughout this vast nation.

From the documentary, you will learn that the black hair-styling industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and that others (non-blacks) outside of the black community are banking most of those billions that this industry produces.

You will learn that there are only four black hair-care product companies, out of a hundred or so, producing their own black hair-care product lines, and that blacks aren't fully represented in an industry of which they're the principal consumer--not at the production, nor the distribution end.

Unfortunately, what is true for the black-hair industry is also true for other industries--clothing, food, housing, banking, what have you. Until we own the production and distribution end of what we consume, we can't hope to improve measurably our economic condition in this country in a major way, but, rather, give to others our hard-earned income--money that will be reinvested, not within our black communities, but beyond our boundaries.

And, sadly, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Christmas is but a couple days away. I was composing another entry, but decided, at the last minute, that I should write something more in keeping with the season. More years than I care to recall, I wrote the following poem.

For all its failures, with a few lines, it offers an insight into my being that would require a tome to match. If you find the meaning of it, you will learn more about me in a few minutes of reading that years of observation, and study would never yield.

I'm humbled that you think enough of what I write here to come by from time to time to read it, and leave your comments. A blog author can't command a readership; he or she can only hope that a gem or two of worth may be found among the cloddish earth of prosaic words that variously pass as opinions, fact, insight--and, with a little luck, something approaching wisdom.

Christmas is not my favorite day. Every day is my favorite day. Yet, Christmas is special: It brings a message of hope, peace and goodwill. Each year Christmas reminds us of what life on earth could be were we to dedicate ourselves to bringing more of that hope, peace, and goodwill to our world--first as a new born (a new resolve), and extending that resolve throughout the year.

Merry Christmas to all!

Now my poem:


I want to show you where I've been,
And tell you all the things I've done.
I've saddled up the westward wind,
And ridden high above the sun.
I've haunted dusty halls of times gone by,
And left my footprints there.
I've trampled fences of the future with a vagrant's glee;
This I've done without a care, without a moment's empathy.
I've seen the silver cord of life:
I've watched it leave a trail behind,
And follow as some burdened wife,
Along the passageways of time.
My ears have thrilled to music never heard before;
Heard voices sing sweet melodies that made sad hearts to soar!
I've heard eternal sages,
Recite their catechisms ageless.
These things I've seen and heard, and more!
These things are hidden in the Word,
And locked behind your door.

This, too, I've seen, and wish to tell and share:
Of all the things I've seen and heard,
Of all the places been and seen,
No sight has been more fair,
No wisdom's been more keen,
Than the sight of those who love,
And the sound of those who care!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

E-Mail Wars: DADT

E-Mail WarsI wrote this blog entry some weeks ago. Upon completion, I decided not to publish it. Since that time, new developments have brought a change of mind: Don Ask, Don't Tell has come up for a vote twice in the Senate only to be blocked by Republicans.

The video below is at the heart of this blog entry. When first I heard it, I'll admit, my blood boiled a bit, not because the speaker, Alex Nicholson spoke untruths, but because he seemed to make a conscious decision to lay the repeal of DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) squarely at the feet of the president.

I'll concede, readily, that I, too, feel that President Obama hasn't done enough, and hasn't gone far enough, to effect a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't tell, but what I'm not prepared to do is zero in on him as the prime culprit in this melodrama.

Congressional Republicans, I believe, have stonewalled the repeal, and, at least on one occasion, filibustered it. Congressional repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell would have, by now, been a foregone conclusion had Republicans stepped up and voted for the repeal--the Congressional remedy, I believe, that Obama is seeking, rather going over Congress' head, or using his executive power for a quick, but not a lasting, fix, that could be easily overturned by a future hostile congress.

So it was balance that I saw missing when I listened to the exchange between Alex and Keith Olbermann. As a member of the Log Cabin Republicans group, Alex appeared downright obsessed with blaming Obama, rather than Republicans, more intent on drawing partisan lines in the discussion, rather than identifying all those who're really to blame.

Harry Reid, at the behest of Lady Gaga (who has on a number of occasions used her considerable celebrity power to advance a repeal of DADT), attached the appeal onto the Defense Authorization Bill—including the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Reid says that the repeal provision in the bill was already scheduled, and that Lady Gaga's request was not the reason why it was included.

The following information comes from Fox News' web page. It's a breakdown of how the bill fared in Congress:

massive defense spending bill that includes a repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law banning gays from serving openly in the military stalled Tuesday after failing to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate.

Senate Democrats were unable to corral the 60 votes necessary to overcome Republican objections blocking the package from advancing to the floor. The bill failed in a 56-43 vote.

The vote makes it all the less likely that Congress will take any substantive action on "don't ask, don't tell" or the broader defense package before adjourning for the November midterm elections.

Had Republicans not objected, DADT would have been one step closer to being reversed, and a repeal of DADT one step closer to becoming law.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins was seen as a key 60th vote because she has voiced support for repealing "don't ask, don't tell." But she ended up opposing the bill out of concern that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid limited debate and did not give her colleagues opportunities to offer amendments.

Accusations flew after the vote. The Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization, accused Reid of refusing to compromise. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said the Republican filibuster leaves gay members of the military "forced to lie about who they are."

According to Log Cabin Republicans, DADT went down to defeat for something Harry Reid did, not something the Republican Party did. Keep this in mind as you proceed here. This outcome was another reason why I responded as I did to the interview you're about to watch below between Keith Obermann and Alex Nicholson.

After watching the video, I promptly e-mailed the Log Cabin Republicans and expressed my outrage over the partisan way that Alex had acquitted himself. After watching the video, you can read the e-mail exchange that took place between myself and Alex. Initially, I sent the e-mail to Log Cabin, and not to Alex, hoping, at the very least, that someone would relay by displeasure to him at what I saw was a partisan attempt to score political points, rather than garner broad support for a repeal of DADT.
With the background in place for a better understanding of what's to follow, I must clarify one thing first before proceeding: I'm not looking for agreement here on the position I took. If you agree, that's okay, and if you don't, that's okay. Had I availed myself of a longer cooling-off time, I probably wouldn't have voiced my objection at all.

Congressman Barney Frank, who was interviewed after Alex, saw Alex's response as partisan, too, a position that I held before Frank spoke, which he confirmed, and which prompted Alex to characterize my position as "spoon-fed," and "regurgitated."

Here's my initial e-mail to the Log Cabin Republicans:

I'm pleased with the court's recent ruling to suspend DADT. But I just listened to the plaintiff in the case and a member of your organization who used his interview to MSNBC to make the issue partisan, and to slam the president and his administration. As someone who has taken a stand with e-mails to my representatives, including the president, I'm angry as hell.

I'm a liberal. How many Republicans have stood up to end DADT? It could have been history months ago if John McCain and other Republicans had supported a repeal.

Perhaps you can justify being a Republican in light of their resistance to ending DADT, but it would be better to place the blame where it's deserved--on your own party.

Disgusted, but not surprised at how you have used DADT,

Xxx Xxxxxxx

Here's Alex' response to my response (It's getting harder to keep up with the responses.)

As someone who has dedicated five years of his life to work on repealing DADT full-time and without pay, your comments are what an objective observer would find disgusting. Despite the talking point that Barney Frank spoon-fed you and which you regurgitated in your email about my appearance, there was nothing partisan about what I said. I run a non-partisan organization, Servicemembers United (the largest gay troops and vet organization) and I simply laid out the facts. If holding up a mirror in front of you makes you see partisanship, then that should tell you something about who's really being partisan. Everyone who has commented on that interview, except for you, agreed that it was Frank that brought the party politics into it. If you REwatch the segment, I talked plainly and clearly about ALL sides that held blame. I mentioned Republicans, the Senate leadership, and the President.

I am at the epicenter of the DADT repeal fight. I'm in all the meetings with the White House, the issue leaders on Capitol Hill, leaders in the Pentagon, AND I'm at the center of the court battle as well. I, more than anyone, see with a crystal clear view what's going on with DADT and who is (and is NOT) doing what they CLAIM they support. This issue is not about McCain. He's a lost cause and he's not movable. Smart activists concentrate their time and energy on those who are movable, and especially on those who SAY they support us but are not acting on that claim. That would be, first and foremost, the President. Anyone who thinks he has done all he can to get DADT repealed is just plain crazy.

And as to your closing remark ("Disgusted, by now surprised by how you have used DADT.")... I was DISCHARGED involuntarily under DADT. DADT came to me, I didn't seek it out. Are you kidding me? You should be ashamed of yourself for such a senseless and irresponsible remark. Do your homework!

Alex Nicholson

Now, here, again, is my response to Alex responding to my response (whew!).

As someone who has dedicated five years of his life to work on repealing DADT full-time and without pay, your comments are what an objective observer would find disgusting.

You, it seems, are the one who's not an "objective observer." You're too close to the problem for that kind of clarity. Further, your political propensities color the issue with a political bias--very disturbing when you say repeal of DADT is your aim.

Despite the talking point that Barney Frank spoon-fed you and which you regurgitated in your email about my appearance, there was nothing partisan about what I said.

Clearly your objectivity has been severely compromised, and severely crippled. Barney Frank spoke eloquently for your cause, more eloquently than you, laying out the path ahead. Would you not agree were it not for Republican filibustering on this issues it would have been resolved weeks ago? It's my firm belief that you have placed politics above your stated interests.

I run a non-partisan organization, Servicemembers United (the largest gay troops and vet organization) and I simply laid out the facts. If holding up a mirror in front of you makes you see partisanship, then that should tell you something about who's really being partisan. Everyone who has commented on that interview, except for you, agreed that it was Frank that brought the party politics into it. If you REwatch the segment, I talked plainly and clearly about ALL sides that held blame. I mentioned Republicans, the Senate leadership, and the President.

Your mirror has flaws. It's distorted by biases that you have projected on me. I'm not the problem. You are! Barney Frank, like me, saw what your unstated, but manifested, intentions were during the interview. Everyone who commented, obviously, are as politically biased as you are, and are from your political neck of the woods. No surprise there, that they would run to your defense. I have no dog in this fight (I'm not gay), and can approach this issue with far more detachment than you, and a helluva lot more objectivity than those who ran to your defense.

I am at the epicenter of the DADT repeal fight. I'm in all the meetings with the White House, the issue leaders on Capitol Hill, leaders in the Pentagon, AND I'm at the center of the court battle as well. I, more than anyone, see with a crystal clear view what's going on with DADT and who is (and is NOT) doing what they CLAIM they support. This issue is not about McCain. He's a lost cause and he's not movable. Smart activists concentrate their time and energy on those who are movable, and especially on those who SAY they support us but are not acting on that claim. That would be, first and foremost, the President. Anyone who thinks he has done all he can to get DADT repealed is just plain crazy.

Smart activists would, in addition, point out all those who stand in the way, not just those who're still active in the fight--unless, of course, other considerations preclude that--such as scoring cheap political points, for example. I have supported you, and have acted consistently on that claim, but that hasn't stopped you from berating me, after I offered you my perspective on your performance. Your response--which has been more focused on maintaining a defensive posture than in retaining an ally--is further proof of your political bias, and myopic view. You know that old statement, "The enemy of my enemy...," but you clearly see all those who might criticize you as an enemy, and fodder for your customary knee-jerk reaction which is to treat them with the same heavy hand, and dismissive attitude as those opposed to your stated goals.

And as to your closing remark ("Disgusted, by now surprised by how you have used DADT.")... I was DISCHARGED involuntarily under DADT. DADT came to me, I didn't seek it out. Are you kidding me? You should be ashamed of yourself for such a senseless and irresponsible remark. Do your homework!

How condescending! How presumptuous! You have, in ways impossible for me, made my case, and proved my point. I will continue to push for an end to DADT in spite of your response, and my belief that you shouldn't be the torchbearer for the cause. You have shown yourself to be more petulant than helpful in advancing your interests. If you're on the front line battling the forces that oppose you, God help your cause--you lack civility, and the reserve required to bring people together. Further, by making DADT a partisan issues (which you did, despite protestations to the contrary), by not calling out all those who are an impediment, regardless of politics, then you do the cause a disservice, a cause that would be better served if you stood down, and allowed others who know how to "win friends and influence people" to take the lead.

Still disgusted, and now mortified,

Xxx Xxxxxxx.

No, he hasn't responded to my response, and I don't think he will. I think he realizes that e-mailing me at all with his diatribe was ill-advised, and that his e-mail could be used in the manner in which I'm now using it--giving it a broader readership than he intended, but I don't think I owe him confidentiality, since he, too, can do with what I wrote to him in anyway he sees fit.

A postscript: Alex, during the interim, has appeared on MSNBC several times since this exchange. On those occasions, he was careful to point his anger, and his frustration, to the Right as well as the Left. Who could ask for anything more?

Monday, November 15, 2010

"What the fuck has Obama done so far?"

City SurpriseIf the title of this piece seems a bit out of character for me, well, you'd be right: it is. It's the reason why I put it in quotations. I'll come back to the title in a bit, but first I have a few observations I'd like to share:

Was it only me? It appears that President Obama and the Democrats were shocked that they didn't do better in the mid-term elections. We all know by now that the House lost so many seats to Republican and Tea Party candidates that the news media had to go back several decades to recall a similar drubbing delivered to a political party. And it didn't stop there: Democrats lost several seats in the Senate.

By all estimates, here was a political party and a president who had accomplished much--an extension of unemployment insurance for millions, a successful cash for clunkers program to keep our automobile industry from going under, "tax cuts for up to 3.5 million small businesses to help pay for employee health care coverage." But Democrats still lost heavily at the polls.

And what did they do in response?

Democrats did what the Republicans did when they lost miserably a few years back, right? Moved more in the direction of their ideological center, which for the Right is right, and the Left, left. I hate to break it to you: Democrats are doing no such thing--they're doubling down on their decision to hold fast to their failed tactic of appeasement, and compromise, with them as the only ones appeasing and compromising, as members of their base continue to flake away like so much old paint.

I won't belabor the point, and make you nauseous, by taking you back through the Left's misery brought on by watching Democrats cave again and again to Republicans to make their legislation as palatable to the Right's political taste buds as is humanly possible, hoping that Republicans will like the results enough to cast much-needed votes for passage, only to watch the Right spit out the mess they helped cook up, calling such legislation like health-care, and wall street reforms "vile," and "evil," promising to repeal the legislation, and replace it with their own confection, if anything at all.

Obama stated in essence that he and members of his party were so busy getting things done, that he and they didn't take time to properly inform the public of what it was that they had accomplished during the first two years of his administration.

Now, here is where the title of this blog entry comes in. That title is the name of an actual site. It's the site's URL. If you haven't seen it, here's a brief description: The site hopes to do what the president and the Democrat congress failed to do--beat the drum for the Democrats by enumerating their many accomplishments over the past two years.

On the site, I like the way the information is packaged. It's like being a visitor, a tourist, in a strange city out for a walk around town, not sure what you'll find, but excited about the possibility that just around a corner something interesting, something surprising, something unexpected, may leap out of the ordinary and the mundane, to give you something to remember and to talk about once you're back home, engaging the family, or a neighbor across a common fence or wall.

Here, take a walk through the town with the funny name, "What the fuck has Obama done so far?"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's White About It?

The polarization of this country along racial lines, or how it's usually stated--along the color-line--not only points our the insanity of racism, but how this nation over its long history chose to compete with the rest of the world by virtue of tying one hand behind its back, the result of not fully utilizing the black talent within its midst.

Blacks and whites alike decry the supposed lack of black youth involvement in this society. Is what we're seeing a rebelling against a social norm--a norm that has a white vs. black element to it?

A recent study supports that conclusion. It states that violence among young people, blacks in particular, is a direct result of their feeling alienated from the larger society--seen as outcasts.

In our past, blacks have had to resort to extreme measures to become contributing members of this society, and to maximize their potential (some passing as white, if they could). Black Voices featured one such black, and detailed his travails. In fact, he was this nation's first black doctor.

His story is interesting on several levels: One, it points to the necessity of recording family history (Granny's passion), and not allowing family members to fall out of the family tree (regardless of color) lest they remain lost; and, two, it points to the need for any country to appreciate its talent (regardless of race or ethnicity), if it wishes to remain a strong, vibrant, and competitive force among the world communities.

Recently, the country's first black doctor was properly memorialized.

Relatives of the doctor were unaware that they were related to a man who had been the subjects of several books. Consequently, the doctor lay in an unmarked Brooklyn grave for 145 years.

White descendants of James McCune Smith gathered Sunday to unveil the new tombstone on his grave site. The scourge of racism is largely responsible for Smith going unnoticed for so long.

If you're white, and you find out that you're related to someone black, it's a damn sight better to discover that he's a doctor than a horse thief. But the story doesn't end there.

The AP writes:

The story of why Smith was nearly overlooked by history and buried in an unmarked grave is in part due to the centuries-old practice of light-skinned blacks passing as white to escape racial prejudice. Smith's mother had been a slave; his father was white. Three of his children lived to adulthood, and they all apparently passed as white, scholars say.

Greta Blau, Smith's great-great-great-granddaughter, made the connection after she took a course at Hunter College on the history of blacks in New York. She did some research and realized that James McCune Smith, the trailblazing black doctor, was the same James McCune Smith whose name was inscribed in a family Bible belonging to ... her grandmother.

Her first response was, "But he was black. I'm white."

This story can probably be retold thousands of times in this country. How many white families have a member of the black race somewhere among the branches in their family tree, either long forgotten, or long ignored?

Smith was denied entry to medical schools in the United States and earned his medical degree in Glasgow, Scotland.

He returned to New York to practice and also became an anti-slavery advocate through his writings:

"As early as 1859, Dr. McCune Smith said that race was not biological but was a social category," Dr. Vanessa Northington Gamble, a medical doctor and historian at George Washington University told the AP. "I feel that I am standing on the shoulders of Dr. James McCune Smith."

Blau theorizes that all of Smith's descendants began passing for white after his death -- and for good reason.
More here.

My mother resides in an unmarked grave. It's on private property, but the marker, if there ever was one, has long disappeared, covered over by the ravages of time, and neglect. She was buried in a place--on a few acres of land--that whites owned and set aside for slaves. She wasn't a slave, herself, but this place was, during her time, the only place where blacks were allowed to bury their own. It wasn't a cemetery, as we often think of the word, but more of a final resting place, because blacks didn't have their own cemeteries at the time of her death in the place where she died.

At least Dr. James McCune Smith is, at long last, recognized, claimed, and properly honored by his long-lost family members. There are other blacks waiting, too, who haven't been lost all these many long years, to be welcomed into the family of this nation, and to be recognized, claimed, and properly honored.

Actually, the time is long overdue.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Who Has The Mandate?

Who Has The Mandate?Most of the Republicans who spoke on Wednesday about their recent victories in the House and the Senate, all insisted: The American people gave them a mandate. John Boehner was so moved by it, that he cried.

Pollsters, those who ask the questions and crunch the numbers, believed that the "whipping" would be greater. There's no denying the beating that Democrats took in the House--but, in the Senate, they survived. They weaker now, but they survived. There was a 10% likelihood that they wouldn't. Many pundits felt that the Senate, as well as the House, would fall to the Republicans. They were wrong. To be sure, Democrats received a spanking in the Senate but clearly not a whipping.

Their defeat is easily explained: Many Democrats who voted in the 2008 election sat out this time. This clearly made the difference. They were young, and they were mostly minority. You might reason then: It wasn't the Republicans or the Tea Party who defeated Obama and the Democrats, it was their base. It's hard to say that the low turn out for this group was all about the economy, and not about the inability of Democrats to pursue a progressive agenda, or change how the system works. In the days ahead, Republicans will characterize their victory as a referendum on Obama, on his agenda, and on Democrats generally.

Once again, I think pundits are misreading the tea leaves: They're insisting that Republicans will have to abandon their obstructionist tactics and actually do something. "Surely the Republicans will cooperate now. Surely they want a record on which to run in 2012." I admit: I didn't anticipate the American people falling for this tactic. But now, I'm beginning to take Republicans at their word, whether they're Tea Party Republicans are old-brand Republicans. Early on, these old-brands made clear their position: They said, unequivocally, that they wanted Obama to fail, and, to date, they're making good on their words. With their new congress, Republicans are now threatening the unthinkable, not to compromise, and to make Obama a one-term president.

If I wasn't a believer before, I am now. A true believer. Why should Republicans abandon what has been working for them? Rand Paul, Tea Party candidate, and now Senator-elect, has put Republicans on notice. In his victory speech, he said, essentially, the Tea Party will take no prisoners, and they won't surrender. One thing is clear: It's the Tea Party that feels it has a mandate from the people, and not the whole of the Republican Party. Rand Paul has thrown down the gauntlet. For the Republican establishment the message is unambiguous: The Tea Party is now in charge. It's Tea Time. You'll either do it our way, or we'll show you the highway.

What we have, then, is a prescription for gridlock. The Tea Party, to keep its promises, will have to do something to give the appearance of reducing the size of government. For one, they will attempt to repeal health-care reform, which will, of course, fail. For two, they will attempt to whittle away at the size of the Federal government. Some Tea Party folk have actually gone so far as to call for the abolishing of the Education Department and the EPA. Were this to pass, it would make the Koch brothers happy, as well as some other wanna-be polluters. Republicans may want this, too, but they're not under any pressure to deliver. Expect some infighting on these issues.

Here's my prediction: The Republican Party will soon be obsolete. It will be replaced by the Tea Party. The Tea Party will be the Republican Party on steroids--more intransigent, more conservative, more aggressive, and less likely to reach across the aisle, if at all. Already the Tea Party has made significant inroads--to be followed by one incursion after the other, until they've replaced the Republican establishment.

Before the curtains were drawn on the Democrats, Obama managed to pass two key pieces of legislation (health-care reform, and wall street reform). Mid-term elections, traditionally, present incumbent parties a real challenge to hold seats in either house, regardless of party. It explains one of the reasons for the much-criticized haste to pass legislation before the mid-term, and the reason Obama and the Democrats didn't tackle other major legislation, such as immigration reform (which wasn't popular anyway with the electorate), and is now, after the recent Republican victories, on indefinite hold.

I firmly believe that the reason that jobs weren't pursued with all the vigor that the president and the congress could muster was the perception that the financial sector needed rescuing first to avoid a depression. They may have believed, too, that the much-lauded stimulus bill (which economist agreed was too small) would accomplish that task--but job losses came faster than anticipated, and the stimulus managed only to keep the losses from becoming a tsunami, merely replacing jobs that were being lost, rather than creating new ones.

To make matters worse: Votes passed in the Democrat-majority House were in-boxed in the Senate--because, it was explained, the votes necessary for passage didn't exist. The Democrat caucus gave Democrats 60 votes to defeat filibusterers in the Senate, but "blue-dog democrats (Republicans in my book)," and moderates, may have kept many of these bills from going forward, especially with that nasty mid-term election on the horizon. As an aside: Blue Dogs were unseated in the recent race with a vengeance, twenty-four in all.

Here's a thought: Should progressives start their own movement within the Democrat Party to move it more to the Left? I say: Why not? The country can't be more polarized than it is now. This would be one way to exact change (to assure accountability, maintain transparency, and take the money out of politics) without armed conflict, that second-amendment remedy, once suggested by Tea Party candidate, now defeated, Sharron Angle.

Undeservedly, Obama and the Democrats were stand-ins on Tuesday for Bush and the Republicans. Democrats took the beating that should have gone to Republicans. You can say that the previous mid-term elections and Obama's rise to the presidency was payback for what the Republicans did during their tenure, but, in my view, it wasn't enough. I can recount several things, from the two wars in which we're stilled mired--not so much in Iraq as in Afghanistan--to the economic woes this country still faces, all having their genesis under Bush. So to see Republicans rewarded for their failings is the ultimate slap in the face to Democrats. It further crystallizes my belief that the electorate still doesn't get it.

Will Obama abandon his liberal agenda, move closer to the center, and lean Right? It's no secret that the country is more conservative than liberal, but this hasn't always translated into political capital for Republicans, who, this time around, garnered more of the independent votes than did Democrats.

Rush Limbaugh, the oracle of the Right, states it something like this: "Where is there room for any compromise with Marxism, or socialism, or liberalism? Where is there compromise with evil."

Bullying is in. Issuing threats is in. Hard-line resistance is in. Statesmanship is out. Compromise is out. Working together is out. The Democrats are in a brawl, a bar fight, and they still want to characterize it as a misunderstanding. They say: The Republicans down deep want to work with us. They just don't know it yet.

Unless Republicans are in power, they will hold this nation and its economy hostage. It's clear, at least to me, that what they're after is a one-party nation, where they control both houses of congress and the presidency in perpetuity. We have moved into an era of one-party politics, where the Republican opposition party is just that--in complete opposition to any efforts to reach across the aisle to advance legislation, unless it initiates the legislation, unless it shapes the legislation without interference or input from the opposing party.

If you doubt me, listen to their rhetoric: It's defiant, definite, and deliberate, the four "D's" of a destructive policy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Scariest People Award

The Scariest People AwardTONIGHT IS HALLOWEEN. A blog I visit frequently, in celebration of Halloween, offered its list of "scary people," enumerating them, not necessarily in order of who is scariest, but because that's the simplest way to make a list.

Some on the list did not surprise.

Some I didn't know--and that's probably a good thing--since over the last several months, after watching Barack Obama ascend to the office of president, I've come to know many "scary people," and why they're considered scary, and, frankly, my "scary-folk list" is all full up.

Not to be outdone, I picked up on the theme, and countered with my own, now to be an annual observance on Halloween, Scariest People Award. Read on:

For me, The Scariest People Award goes to those folk on the Right (with their failed policies, policies that they'd like to resurrect, if they take over the House and Senate), those folk on the Left who might sit out the election coming up in a couple of days, because of an "enthusiasm gap" (Whatever in Hades that mean!), and those Supreme Court Justices who recently finished off our democracy, of the people, by the people, for the people, for now, by giving to corporations free-speech rights to spend as much money as they wish to impact legislation, and to seat politicians of their choosing.

What the people of this nation will witness, if we're to take Republicans and John Boehner at their word, is a Republican 'no compromise policy,' a kind of "Republican Revenge," if you will, against the liberal policies, and liberal legislation which Republicans steadfastly resisted, using every obstructionist tactic in their playbook, especially the use of the filibuster in unprecedented numbers.

I say pick your poison: Do you wish to die slowly, by supporting the Left and receive a few palliatives, from time to time, to fix our broken, political and economic system, with the hope that, with time, we can change course, or die quickly, by sitting out the next election, and doing nothing, thereby allowing Republicans and Tea Party folk to call the shots--to repeal health-care reform by not financing it, to reduce the minimum wage, standing at $7.25, to God only knows what, to privatize Social Security, to repeal what little was done to rein in Wall Street abuses, and to embroil this nation in another war?

It's strangely emblematic that Halloween and the next election are only days apart.

The grim, unsmiling, faces that the Republicans have been wearing for the last two years, like so many Halloween masks of Horror Movie characters--Freddie Krueger, Jason, and Pumpkinhead--will appear angelic by comparison, if Republicans carry out their threats to punish the American people, liberals in particular, for having the gall to insist that BP set aside billions to cover losses to Gulf Coast residents, for extending unemployment insurance for those out of work, and for forcing health insurers to actually insure people.

Such liberal policies from the Left, that actually put people first, and corporations last, cannot stand. It's un-American.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Speaking of Africa, And Looking Right at You....

Recently, a blogger managed, successfully, to entice me to another blog with this description of the blogger's post:

"Have you ever read a post that moves your spirit? That seems to engulf your soul from all directions, like a jazz composition… jazzuloo. You listen to it over and over again, mesmerized by the notes, nuances and lyrics… not exactly sure that you are actually hearing what you are hearing, but knowing that you are hearing something unique, real… from the heart."

With a pitch like that, it's nearly impossible not to bite. And I wasn't disappointed: The post was precisely as the blogger had recounted, prose set to music--that is, until I came to the following jarring lines:

"When you speak of Africa, do not look at me, I do not want their stereotype to splatter on my being. I am not the martyr of their corruptions and own shortcomings. I have my country and my culture to look after."

I'm not here to chastise, or to castigate my black brother. He spoke his mind. He spoke from his heart. He conveyed his truth. And that's a good thing. Yet, there are other truths, truths that are held just as passionately as his. And that, too, is a good thing.

Over the years, John Donne, in one of his "meditations," has spoken my truth for me, and I'd like to share it with you once again. I'm sure that I have, at least on one occasion during the months that I've posted here, shared this, my truth, with you:

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Like Donne, I, too, "am involved in mankind." It matters not from whence they hail, be it Africa, still troubled by its colonial past, and European oppression, or China with its billions of souls, or Iraq with its fallen thousands, a number which, incidentally, Wikileaks, only days ago, updated for the world community--correcting and revising the official count of war dead, using leaked military documents as its source:

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the 'Afghan War Diaries', previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivallent population size.

The writer of the blog described an amalgam of races, and cultures, to which he belonged, the whole of which, he suggests, is now greater than the sum of the parts:

Africa has always remained a standstill from the time it was the cradle of humanity, a kingdom of spears, a colony and independent. My ancestors [those of the Black or African Diaspora] moved and shake the world. They went from the cradle of humanity, chased out with spears, broke the chains of slavery and gained liberty. Do you have another name for freedom?

And with one final thrust, one final act of divestment, and repudiation, one final act of defiance, the blogger threw off the yoke that is Africa, and aligned himself fully and completely with the diasporic black people around the world:

"Africa calls 'come back, come back to mama Africa. Give to mama Africa'.
I don’t understand their languages. My tongue moves to English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese and few others which my culture created. I am not going back; I don’t want to be Africa’s house Negro. I will not give either. I will not give back the sweat and flesh of my ancestors. I am European, from the West Indies, and quite happy about my diversity!"

And his words were seductive: The many who commented there were enchanted by his words. For, in his words, they found their own truths validated. His words were so many Sirens beckoning their hearts and souls toward the rocks of an unshakeable certainty.

Yet, as I read, all I could hear were the words of John Donne, speaking eloquently of the interconnectedness of life, and of the oneness of humankind. Almost daily, it's becoming clearer that we humans are connected at the three levels that comprise our humanity--at the level of the body (We now know that it's highly probable that "all humans alive today are descended from a single African man"; at the level of the mind (A book asked once, "What do all people have in common?" The answer: "They're all conscious at the same time"; and at the level of the soul (We're emotional beings: All things being equal, we can all feel happiness, and sadness, love and fear equally.)

If I were to expand upon John Dunne's words, and apply them to nation states and to the people of the world, I'd say this:

"No nation is an island, entire of itself; every nation is a piece of the continent, a part of the world. If a nation be washed away by the sea, the world is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any nation's demise diminishes us all, because, whether we like it or not, we're involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Friday, October 8, 2010

U.S. [S]Chamber of Commerce

Flags Of The WorldIf the reports are correct, then we're seeing President Obama's prediction come true, as well as the predictions of a number of other Washington insiders, who warned--giving First Amendment, free-speech rights to corporations will engender a strain on our democracy never before seen in this country, as corporate and foreign money is used to influence policies and elect candidates who can contribute, in some fashion, to their bottomline.

When Obama sounded the alarm during one of his addresses to the American people, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito visibly shook his head--a serious breach of decorum. Alito had to know the can of worms that he and the court had opened. Yet, his shake of the head was a clear indication that he was deeply perturbed to have it brought to his attention in a forum that didn't allow him a rebuttal. If Alito could have looked ahead to the following article in the Christian Science Monitor, would he have ruled differently?

The focus of particular attention this week is the US Chamber of Commerce, a powerhouse in campaign financing with funds directed largely to the coffers of Republican candidates.

Liberal groups say the Chamber – which has budgeted $75 million to support its favorite candidates this year, almost exclusively Republicans – is using foreign money as part of its huge campaign war chest, which would be illegal. Chamber officials deny the charge.

But it's hard to know for sure, because under federal law the Chamber doesn't have to detail the sources of its campaign spending.

At the time of the Supreme Court decision, I wrote about this under the title, Whose Country Is It, Anyway?, and scolded Jonathan Turley, noted U.S. Constitution scholar, for praising the decision, seeing it as a victory for free speech. With this recent revelation, I wonder if Turley still believes that free speech was served as a result of the Supreme Court decision to extend a First Amendment right to corporations, effectively paving the way for an eventual corpocracy, if steps aren't taken by Congress to bring a halt to this corporate take over of our most precious freedom--to practice our democracy without undue influence either from within or without our country.

Embattled Democratic candidates, the target of Chamber-funded campaign ads, are crying foul, some pointing to the need to revisit last January’s US Supreme Court 5-to-4 decision in the Citizens United case, which makes it easier for corporations and labor unions to influence elections through campaign advertising.

Why must there be this supposed natural-enemy battle line drawn between labor and management? One of the reasons: Management has never been reluctant to put profits ahead of workers, treating them more as disposables than assets. Now that these multinational corporations have the workforce of countries like China, India, and others, from which to draw their labor, outsourcing of production is becoming more and more commonplace. So it follows that these multinational corporations, as well as government-backed foreign corporations, will do whatever is necessary to influence outcomes favorable to them.

And if that means backing "free-market" forces within our country with money--which is mostly synonymous with Republicans, their more likely targets--so be it. We have Tea Party Goers chafing at the idea of socialism, but backing a "free market" ideology which is nothing more than an "outsourcing" of American jobs. How long will it take them to recognize the real enemy to our democracy, our economy, and the continued growth of our middle class?

What we're seeing is an assault upon our democratic process--Supreme Court decisions that favor corporations, and government entities (think the recent eminent domain ruling), lobbyists paying out record sums of moneys to buy off legislators, and now, insult upon insult, foreign money pouring into our elections--so much so that what we now have is not an actual democracy, but a democracy in name only.

Multinational corporations will fly the flag of any country that will give them the most bang for their buck, whether it's China's cheap labor practices--demanding from some of its workforce 35-hour shifts at 31 cents an hour to make an American corporation's products to be sold back to us--or India's cheap labor practices.

Not only can't American workers compete in this global marketplace, they're virtually at a disadvantage--one of the reasons why we're hearing such terms as "economic patriotism" being thrown about these days. Unions, and out-of-work Americans, are often seen as the problem, with the results that they're viciously attacked from some quarters. What these workers need, instead, is more time to retool, or, in some cases, extended unemployment insurance.

The irony: I'm told that many American jobs aren't being filled, because too many Americans don't have the requisite skills, training, or education to fill them. And these aren't a handful of jobs, but millions of them--enough to put quite a dent in our unemployment numbers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who's Your President?

I'm witnessing a very disturbing trend--and on MSNBC of all places. It's not enough that Republicans are doing all they can to bring down President Obama, some liberal pundits are pitching in, as well.

David Corn of Politics Daily, and other liberal pundits are quick to compare Obama with President Clinton, and, you guessed it, Obama is coming up short in every category: Obama's not as politically savvy as was Clinton, not the leader he was, and not as politically focused.

Why this sudden need to elevate Clinton at the expense of Obama?

Forgotten is the Clinton sex scandal that rocked the White House; forgotten is Monica Lewinsky and the stained dress that was preserved as proof of Clinton's infidelity. Gone is Clinton's failed attempt to provide health-care reform, and a host of other failures and scandals that marred his presidency. Remember e-mailgate, and few other gates that plagued his administration: Cattlegate, Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewatergate, Troopergate, and Chinagate.

Because of Monicagate Clinton had to face down an impeachment. I'm not saying that Clinton was guilty of any of these political indiscretions, but that they have mostly been forgotten, as the New Clinton takes the stage in his new role of Obama defacer. In the clip below, you can hear a little bit of this, as well as an explanation for why Clinton's reputation is undergoing a rebirth.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If you don't wish to watch the whole vid-clip, here's a transcript of the part where Obama is compared to Clinton--a comparison that's mostly unwarranted, and unnecessary.

SIMON: I agree with almost all of that, except one small point I would like to make. One reason Bill Clinton is doing so well now is that he's not viewed as a political figure anymore. He's viewed as this philanthropist, this man who's raising hundreds of millions of dollars to, you know, cure AIDS, to solve environmental problems, things that are not especially political. Sure, he's going to go out on the trail for Barack Obama, but I might -- I think, once he does, you might see those figures shift a little.

FINEMAN: Well, I hate to disagree with Roger--boy, we are really disagreeing a lot -- but I haven't seen the poll numbers on that. I can't imagine that there's anybody in the United States who doesn't still regard Bill Clinton as a political figure. Bill Clinton oozes politics out of every pore. And that's what made him infuriating, but what also makes him charming, and also what makes him able to explain in kitchen-table language what Barack Obama can't always seem to do. And it's a fascinating thing. It's a mixed blessing for Obama.

Not only is President Obama's accomplishments--only two years into his presidency--towering over Clinton's presidential years, the challenges facing his administration dwarf those of Bill Clinton's, and Ronald Reagan's administrations combined.

And I think that that is the nub of the problem: Obama's achievements to date, although not as impressive, or as progressive, as many would like for them to be, clearly has him standing out among those in the pantheon of presidential achievers.

First, it was comparing Obama to Woodrow Wilson, and, of late, to Bill Clinton. No matter whether it is on the job-creation front, or handling the Gulf oil spill, or protecting this nation from terrorists, or the handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--President Obama finds himself being measured by the shadows cast by his white predecessors.

It's as though the conversation has taken a sudden turn, for both liberal and conservative pundits (We have always known where Republicans stand!): "We can't have a black president eclipsing the white ones of the past. We can't have him achieving more. We can't have him succeeding where others have failed. We can't let him achieve the stature or the greatness that's reserved for those of a much lighter hue."

Perhaps I'm reading this all wrong--that it has nothing to do with Obama's race--but I'm hard pressed to find another motive.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pathways To A New Black Economy: The New Way (2)

The Black Town Square

The proposed Black Town Square will stand out as the largest Town Square in the world, having pathways and roadways that lead to a variety of shops, buildings, institutions, and highways that extend out beyond the Square into the black community, and back again. It's not possible in this limited space to describe every shop, building, or institution that's likely to find a location within the Town Square, or to explore every destination that the roads in and out of the Square will take you.

For now, I will describe a few of the places that will make the Square their home, and leave it to your imagination to divine the scope and magnitude of what is possible, once the Square has been constructed, and visitors pour through its gates seeking out treasures, information, and kindred souls with which to bond and collaborate for the purpose of enhancing the lives of those blacks seemingly trapped within the various black populations centers throughout this nation.

Because the Town Square is virtual, rather constructed of actual bricks and mortar, its size and dimensions are practically limitless, and its uses constrained only by our imaginations.

I chose Disney's Town Square, U.S.A., and the above picture in particular, to represent the visual of my imaginary and virtual square, mostly for its warmth (albeit below a cheerless sky), its friendly and welcoming ambiance--and mainly because it has the Town Square feel that I wish to project, and it shrouds in ambiguity the ethnicity of those entering the Square.
Shops--the Retail Component
Near the entrance of the Square, you'll find shops and stores featuring ethnocentric, and Afro-centric clothing, many of which have been designed by blacks for blacks. Next door to these shops are toy stores with the black customer in mind--boasting a variety of black dolls, games with a black emphasis, and a variety of other toys with definite black themes--all designed by blacks, and manufactured in the black community by blacks, for blacks.

Across the square, several jewelry stores are opened, and through their windows may be seen jewelry of gold, silver, precious and non-precious stones of every conceivable price--designed by blacks for blacks, with an eye toward creating designs with a unique black appeal, and fashioned in the black community.

Farther down the square, and off the main street--because the aroma of freshly baked goods have an attraction all their own--are located bakeries with every conceivable variety of baked goods under the sun: pies, cakes, cookies, and every child's delight: cupcakes.

Competing with the bakeries for attention are several candy stores, a confectionary lovers dream--rich chocolates, caramels, nougats, and chocolate covered nuts.

An Art Gallery is set up in an open-air area near the bookstore. Sculpture, paintings, drawings, prints are everywhere. Some are framed, while others may be framed or used just as they are. Photographs featuring blacks in a variety of situations and poses may also be purchased and used to illustrate web pages, blogs, books, magazines, posters, etc--to be used online or off.

Next to the Art Gallery, a Gifts and Greeting Cards store draws in customers looking for that ideal gift or perfect card for the observance of, or celebration of, a variety of occasions, events, or situations--to say thank you, or to say I'm sorry, or just to congratulate.

The Town Square will be designed around the visuals of an actual town square (although an imaginary one), so that it will have the feel and atmosphere of one. The retail component of the Square will be the core of it, although the Square will be designed for a much larger purpose (A purpose I'll make clear in subsequent articles). Approved black businesses will sell their products on consignment. Although these products will be featured on the site for sale, and sold using the site's basket technology, the orders may be filled at any location within the United States.

For our service (advertising, using our point of sell capability--a basket feature), and the placing of the order, we will exact a fee. This activity will constitute our main source of income for the Square, although not the only source.

Here's my aim: to provide an outlet for black products and services. In order to do that, we need a serious web site with a huge database capacity, and filtering capability--where all the elements are working together to promote the site: it's products and other offerings.

We have many blacks who are making things. And many of them are located within black communities. With a Black Town Square, they now have a single place from which to offer their goods, thereby expanding their customer base, and building a demand for their products--the result of a broader market. As demand grows, it will lead to an expansion of business, and a hiring of new people to meet that demand, contributing to the community's economy, as people have more money to spend with those businesses residing within their local communities.

Because these products are now featured on the Internet, blacks around the world, those from countries with Internet access, will have access to these black products, creating possibly a foreign market for goods made principally in our black communities by black workers.

Because the Square will give businesses new customers--not just within their own sphere of influence, but over a vast area--they can now invest more in the black community, spurring job growth, and adding to the local black economy. These black businesses now have market penetration in areas that have been, up to now, closed to them because of distance.

Why a Black Town Square?

On the Internet, as well as off the Internet, location is everything. No matter how wonderful a site may be, if you can't direct Internet traffic to your location, then all is lost. That would be equally true if you had a store in your neighborhood but it was off the beaten path--that is, the main thoroughfare. This is why shopping centers, malls, and what have you, put so much energy into attracting anchor stores, stores already with an identity, and plenty of money to advertise their sales, their product lines, and their location. As a result, anchor stores can risk being a little out of the way, because people will go out of their way to find them.

For example: Applebees generally locate it restaurants near a Wal-mart. Not only does Applebees pretty much serve the same targeted customer as Wal-mart, it allows Wal-mart to do most of its marketing research for it. Therefore, when you find a Wal-mart in your neighborhood you can almost always find Applebees.

Clever, don't you think?

Further, having an anchor store in an area also mean that those smaller, less recognizable stores that surround it will stand a greater chance of being noticed. And it's also the reason why to lease space in those areas will cost more than a side street that gets very little traffic.

Our virtual Town Square will serve the same purpose as these anchor stores, but on the Web. We will advertise. We will use every device at our disposal to bring attention to our Black Town Square--and, whenever possible, to capture such attention without having to pay for it. Because of the novelty of the Square, that in itself will make it newsworthy, attracting to the site those we have targeted--blacks from various locations around the nation, regardless of state, or city within which they dwell.

We will, however, advertise where blacks are likely to encounter an advertisement for our Town Square. That will be one way to attract new visitors, but another will be word-of-mouth, if we can make the Square The Place to visit, for old and young alike.

Any black person with a computer and access to the Internet will be able to find his or her way to the Square and partake of the various things within the Square, some of which will be free--while some will bear a price tag.

Once there, it's only natural for browsers and window shoppers to investigate other areas of the Town Square. Curiosity is a powerful motivator. Ads strategically placed throughout the site will direct attention, and fuel our visitor's curiosity to know more about other Town Square features, and offerings.

What we'll create, then, is a multipurpose site (a Mega-Site), one that offers as many things as is possible--even things for amusement--that, once there, visitors will be tempted to stroll through the various areas of the Town Square in search of value, information, and ways to stay informed about matters that impact blacks generally and specifically.

The Town Square, then, becomes a Hub, an Economic Center, a Clearinghouse, a Central Source, a One-Stop Shopping Experience, and a Black Meeting Place, to name a few. The concept of a Hub is not unique: My research turned up several such ideas. What's unique to the proposed Town Square is its size, and its ability to provide a point of sell for many products, without having to redirect potential customers to another site. Some of the sites featured here--as examples of the concept--also have point of sell capabilities, or a basket approach to making purchases. Yet, they have no mechanism for customer feedback--a way of assessing the level of service from a business, or the satisfaction with a product purchased--an important feature of The Black Town Square. Later, I will provide links to a few of these sites so that you can make your own independent assessments.

A positive trend: Online sells are up 7.2% over last year. Not all blacks will be able to take advantage of this trend, but enough will, which will be the difference maker for those blacks eager to expand their market, and grow their business.

"Over the last year, the broadband-adoption gap between blacks and whites has been cut nearly in half," according to a new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Broadband is generally defined as high-speed Internet access.

"'Broadband adoption by African Americans now stands at 56%, up from 46% at a similar point in 2009," the study said. "That works out to a 22% year-over-year growth rate, well above the national average and by far the highest growth rate of any major demographic group.'

"The increase has implications for media targeting African Americans, black-owned and otherwise." [1]

It also has "implications" for businesses targeting blacks.

Here's my vision: And I will continue to bring this vision to life in subsequent articles. It is my hope that the Town Square concept will spur new entrepreneurial activity within the black community, leading to more employment of blacks, and a revolution in the economic revitalization of the inner cities, and black communities generally, as it provides broader markets for those who choose to participate in this endeavor--markets that were unavailable to them because of the impediment of distance.

We will sell ad space. We will redirect traffic to other sites. And we will charge for this service. We can take every successful idea on the Internet and repurpose it with a black slant.

We will actively seek out those blacks with a business or a service, and offer them the Town Square advantage--to either have a redirect from the Square, to sell products from within the Square, or to use the Square to promote their business or service.

Therefore, those who wish to Buy Black (also known as the Ebony Experiment) [2] will be able to locate black businesses, black professionals, and others with whom they may do business. If this database is available online, it can be manipulated to generate a variety of information--information that can be used to direct customers to physical or Internet sites. The Ebony Experiment, which may have started this whole Buy Black phenomenon, seems to have morphed into the Empowerment Experiment (EE). The site features some excellent black directories for locating black businesses and professionals--a source that may be useful in our endeavor. Unfortunately, many of the links that I tried are inactive. Hat tip to Ernesto for reminding me of the Buy Black movement.

On this site, I found iZania Market. It has a concept similar to the one I'm proposing, but not many businesses participating.

The Black Business Network, also on this site, comes closest to the concept I have in mind, although participants are few. Where possible, I will reach out and support those businesses featured on the Network. I tried to join the Network, but to join required that I give out information that I preferred to keep secret. The sign-up form assumes that I'm a company with a mailing address. Because sign-up is at least a two-stage process (I couldn't get passed the second stage.), it was hard to tell exactly how to become a member of the "online community" without being a business or, at the very least, fudging.

For our part: We will actively search out black businesses and services that may benefit from having a central location for what they offer--a location that actively promotes itself, and its content.

Further, we will provide for customer review of products and services (a feature that seems missing on many of the sites). This will reduce and discourage fraud, and will be one of the conditions for selling, advertising, or being redirected from within the Square. For example, if there's a black home improvement contractor operating unsatisfactorily, that contractor's shoddy practices will become a part of his or her record. Rating information will be available readily to those who seek it--partly to determine with whom to do business (those with a better rating or review), and partly to expose those who have questionable business practices.

I fully expect the Square to have customers beyond its targeted group, but only those who can be said to have a black business, or is a black professional, or a service provider, will be allowed to have an address or a location within the Square, or be allowed to promote their business, or service.

Ads and other information will be interspersed throughout the Square, regardless of the area in which visitors may find themselves.

[2] The Ebony Experiment domain name expired on 8/15/2010 pending renewal or deletion.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pathways To A New Black Economy: The New Way (1)

Black Motto: To Give and To ReceiveLet's continue using the hand analogy from the previous blog entry. In many ways it's an excellent visual representation of what I'm trying to accomplish here--create a model for black economic development and autonomy, which draws upon the collective resources of the entire black community.

The cupped hand visual, in the upper left hand corner of this page, is the perfect image for my purpose: It represents the position the hands must be in to give something away, or to receive something that's given. Splayed fingers--fingers spread out and apart--pretty much represents the challenge facing us, as we attempt to bring blacks together in a cohesive manner to work on behalf of the black community in a collaborative way.

To form a cup, the fingers of the hand must be pressed tightly together, with little or no space between them. To form a black collective something similar must occur. But first we need a cup. We need to build a structure that will encourage, and promote, a coming together of members from the black community who have common interests, and aspirations--all working to achieve prescribed goals and objectives.

The cupped hand, then, represents the Black Collective Motto: To Give and To Receive. The fingers pressed tightly together to form the cup suggest the level of black cooperation that's needed to further our economic interests. If we're to progress at a pace commensurate with our need, we'll have to find ways to contract the distance between us--spatially, as well as educationally, socially, and economically.

Here's another visual to give us all an appreciation of the problem, the blue representing black population density. Click or double click on the map to enlarge it.

This next visual will make the above density map a bit clearer, and show those states with the largest black population.

That blacks are densely populated works to our advantage. It makes collaborative efforts that much easier. To the degree that we're splayed, so to speak, primarily East Coast, West Coast, works against us, but even that impediment to black cooperation can be overcome.

Any model constructed for the purpose of black economic development and autonomy, must take into account the construction of a New black Synergy, one that will rebuild black interactivity; a New Black Ecosystem to restore the brain drain that has devastated inner city population centers when blacks abandoned their communities once their economic situation made it possible; and a New Black Cooperation, one built on the Main Ingredient of Trust [1], which undergirds, and gives impetus to, The Indispensable Factor. [2]

During my research, I came across an article by one Hayward Derrick Horton, professor, titled: A SOCIOLOGICAL APPROACH TO BLACK COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: PRESENTATION OF THE BLACK ORGANIZATIONAL AUTONOMY MODEL. [3]

Under the following heading, Implications For Community Development Practitioners, Horton discusses his model for black economic autonomy:

The BOA [Black Organizational Autonomy] model has three implications for community development practitioners. First, efforts to address problems of the black community are more likely to be successful when indigenous groups are empowered to plan and act independently of external factors. This empowerment is derived from economic autonomy. To reiterate, economic autonomy is not separatism. Nor does it imply that the black community should either reject or ignore external supporters and allies. In fact, the evidence suggests that being economically autonomous is the best basis for gaining external support and building lasting alliances. Otherwise, the black community has a subordinate, dependent status. One might argue that such is the current status of the black community. Recent studies documenting the attitudes and opinions of white America toward black America certainly demonstrate that dependency makes the black community vulnerable to scapegoating (Gans, 1988; Kluegel, 1990).

I agree largely with the professor's description of what an Autonomy model should look like--first, that it's not "separatism," and, second, the black community can be economically autonomous, and still have "external supporters and allies."

In the following abstract of his article, the professor offers this overview:

This paper presents a sociological model of black community development: the Black Organizational Autonomy (BOA) model. The BOA model argues essentially that viable black communities are those with organizations that have the following characteristics: 1) economic autonomy; 2) internally developed and controlled data sources; 3) a focus on black history and culture; 4) the development and incorporation of females in leadership roles; and 5) socially inclusive leadership. A case study is presented that supports the model. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the BOA model for community development practitioners. [4 ibid]

In the comment section of an earlier blog entry, I left these words. Now seems the perfect time to resurrect them, and give them new life:

Here's part of the problem [to black economic development]: Blacks have never enjoyed complete [economic] autonomy. Not even Marcus Garvey could achieve such a feat, although he did make the attempt with the formation of the "Universal Negro Improvement Association and began speaking out publicly in favor of worldwide black unity and an end to colonialism." [...]

Worldwide black unity is still a great idea, and should be the goal of blacks in this country, as difficult as that task might be--with black unity here being so elusive.

Our dependence on whites in this country in order to advance materially is too all-inclusive. Think of the power blacks would possess, if the black nations of the world could come together and forge alliances with black people scattered around the world--as a result of what has been called the black or African diaspora--for the advancement of blacks throughout the world, regardless of their nation of origin.

There's a United Nations. Why can't blacks create something similar: A Union of Black African Nations (UBAN), with black delegates from black nations, and non-black nations, setting health, social, economic, and political goals, and developing the organizational structure, and mechanisms to achieve those goals.

Now, if we could pull something like that off, using the vast black resources (the intelligentsia, and natural resources) available to blacks worldwide, we'd be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

The New Way
The New Way will forge new relationships, and a new cooperation among blacks using the technology at our disposal, primarily the Internet. Because distance will no longer be an impediment to black cooperation, black synergy can now exist across miles of separation, allowing blacks to interact in ways never before thought possible. Had the Internet been available during Garvey's time, he and his contemporaries would have found it considerably easier to achieve their rather ambitious goal of uniting blacks for the purpose of building a sustainable black economy.

The New Way will bring black resources--social, political, cultural, economic--under one tent, recognizing that, although the tent will be pitched in the midst of the larger economy, it doesn't have to take on the amoral and immoral character of the whole, but strive to create an economy that's humane and life-supporting.

With The New Way leading the way, I propose the following concept, The Black Town Square, a concept that I'll explore in greater, but not exhaustive, detail in subsequent articles. The proposed town square will be a virtual town square--not one built from bricks and mortar. And that's a good thing: It will make the Town Square accessible to blacks across the nation, and from any part of the world that offers access to the vast networks of the Information Highway. In the United States, the town square will be called The Black Town Square of America--America, because it's here that the concept will first be tested, Black, because blacks will be the racial group targeted, and Town Square, because the name projects friendliness, welcomeness, and warmth.

I propose further that, with the success of the American model, we expand it to other areas of the world that have high black concentrations. For example, in South Africa, the town square there might be known as The Black Town Square of South Africa. Taken together, the various town squares will be known as The Black Town Squares of the World.

How is that for thinking big!

Just as I did in previous articles, I will now leave you with something to chew on. It constitutes a rather large mouthful, but it will give us something to sink our teeth into as we explore ways to address those issues that are unique to blacks, and the black community--all with an eye toward constructing a model to foster black community development, empowerment, and economic autonomy. No date is given for the article below, but it seems to have been written sometime during the first half of the current decade. Although many blacks may have seen their fortunes reversed as a result of the recession that now grips this country, I wanted to present the information below, despite its sanguinity. I wanted to show what we can do collectively, if the economy is healthy, and we invest appropriately.

African American Wealth: Powerful Trends and New Opportunities

African Americans are steadily increasing their wealth, boosting their holdings in real estate, stocks, and savings vehicles, as they seek to fund college educations for their children and create a secure retirement for themselves. It's a process of becoming ever more keenly aware of the need to save, invest, and plan for the future. "The level of interest in financial independence, economic empowerment, and investing has just exploded," said Duane Davis, founder of the Coalition of Black Investors quoted in a 2003 article that appeared on Davis characterized this growth as "a real groundswell."


Davis' view was reinforced by results of the 2002 Ariel Schwab Black Investor Survey cosponsored by Ariel Mutual Funds and Charles Schwab. The Survey, published annually every year since 1998, publishes data on African American households earning $50,000 or more a year. According to findings from 2002, the percentage of African Americans investing in the stock market increased 30 percent between 1998 and 2002, from 57 to 74 percent.

Unfortunately, that number dipped to 61 percent according to the 2003 Survey, as many African Americans left the market, no doubt bruised by the poor returns that characterized the stock market for the second consecutive year. Equally unfortunate, many stayed on the sidelines this past year and missed the recent market rally. "The recent market upswing shows that you may have to go through the valleys to reach the peaks," said Charles Schwab vice president Carla A. Foster, in the Survey's analysis section.


Homeownership among African Americans, however, has shown a steady increase. The percent of African Americans who own their own homes increased from 42 percent in 1990 to 48 percent in 2003, according to data compiled by the Consumer Federation of America and, and cited in an October 2003 press release.


African Americans spent $645.9 billion in 2002, an increase of 104 percent from 1990, according to Target Market News, a black consumer market research and information company ( However, as noted African American author, speaker, and financial advisor Brooke Stephens points out in her book Talking Dollars and Making Sense, making money is important, but saving it is more important. Stephens cautions that while the African American community can be proud of contributing hundreds of billions to the nation's economy, it's essential not to lose sight of the importance of savings in creating economic empowerment and building personal wealth. "You're not building wealth if you use all your money for consumption," she writes. "Real wealth is being able to say, 'I have the freedom to do what I want with my life, and I don't have to stay in this job if I don't want to.'"

The 2002 Ariel Schwab Survey noted steady progress in the area of personal savings among African Americans, with the average monthly savings increasing from $200 per month in 2001 to $237 per month in 2002. (2003 figures aren't available yet.) Building a secure retirement ranked highest among the respondents (46 percent) as their primary reason for saving, with sending a child to college ranking second at 19 percent. [...]

Black Enterprise magazine has created the Circle of Wealth, a black wealth initiative that seeks economic empowerment for African Americans by changing attitudes toward money management. The Circle is an ongoing cycle comprised of 1.) Knowledge, 2.) Commitment, 3.) Investment, 4.) Portfolio Management, and 5.) Wealth, all enabling Reinvestment in Children, Businesses, and Community.

As part of this powerful initiative, the magazine developed the Declaration a Financial Empowerment, the following 10–point wealth–building pledge:

"I, from this day forward, declare my vigilant and life–long commitment to financial empowerment. I pledge the following:

To save and invest 10 to 15 percent of my after–tax income.
To be a proactive and informed investor.
To be a disciplined and knowledgeable consumer.
To measure my personal wealth by net worth not income.
To engage in sound budget, credit, and tax management practices.
To teach business and financial principles to my children.
To use a portion of my personal wealth to strengthen my community.
To support the creation and growth of profitable, black–owned enterprises.
To ensure my wealth is passed onto others.
To maximize my earning power through a commitment to career development, technological literacy and professional excellence."

(Source: [5]

[1] The Main Ingredient: Trust is the element, the ingredient upon which a New Black Economy may be built--as well as nation states--and form the basis upon which all enterprises may flourish, provided people of goodwill have developed the will to put the good first.

[2] The Indispensable Factor: It's a black collective willingness to collaborate in large enough numbers, on a broad enough scale, to push our economic agenda forward with great deliberation, and great haste, taking advantage of those means at our disposal to expedite this push.

[3] A Sociological Approach To Black Community Development: Presentation Of The Black Organizational Autonomy Model.

[4 ibid]

[5] African American Wealth: Powerful Trends and New Opportunities